Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Incidental or Evolutionary Advantage?
Consider the operatic voice. This is a voice that can be heard clearly at the last row of the top balcony in the world's greatest opera houses. A voice that soars over an orchestra and chorus. A voice that can be made to trill, to plunge, to growl. A voice to overwhelm the crowd. How did Homo Sapiens' voice evolve? Voice begins with air. The human lung is a bellows in service of the voice. The larynx plays the same role as a reed in a wind instrument: folds within the larynx (called vocal cords) vibrate and modulate air coming from the lungs. The tongue and mouth form specific sounds from the tones now amplified by the sounding box of the head and chest cavities. In the dawn of our days, millenia ago, was the voice the sophisticated instrument of the current era? Or more primitive. Were the earliest humans equipped with a fully evolved relationship between lungs, larynx and mouth? Could early laryngeal folds oscillate at 440 times per second (required to sing the A above Middle C)? Or was early speech more monochromatic? Perhaps a child found that she alone could throw her voice across a canyon and hear it echo back. Perhaps she experimented, and discovered she could warble like a bird. Cry out in danger. Call others from a great distance.She could ululate as the wolf howls, or in sorrow. Were her chances for a mate improved? Were her children prized as the gift was passed down. Was there a special role in primitive society for one who so easily could be heard? I believe it must have been this way.